I'm taking the day off from work today, one of only a handful of days I've had since I lost my job in March, 2014, through a year of non-stop freelance and then about a year of non-stopness at work.
My wife and I flew down to Raleigh, North Carolina to see our younger daughter before she ventures out for yet another summer leading scuba diving trips in the Caribbean. I had been down to see her once before, but hadn't seen her new apartment and also hadn't met her new room-mate or her latest collection of friends and co-workers.
Raleigh, I guess, is like a lot of small and not-so-small cities across the US. Their manufacturing base and industry has dried up and left for China, their downtown is troubled and wealth has left the city for the suburbs.
That said, the city is coming back. You can hardly spit in the downtown area without hitting an artisanal barista pulling an artisanal beer or fetishized coffee with their artisanally-tattooed arm. All these tiny artisanal restaurants have taken over space in the old factories and mills and have exposed brick and hard-wood beams to die for.
The question remains, of course, is how do you prime the pump? How does the community support all these bars and restaurants when, in all likelihood, the bars and restaurants don't pay enough so that the people who work in them can actually eat and drink in them.
There are two big tech companies in town, Red Hat and Citrix and their downtown office complexes are sprawling and expanding. Red Hat, in particular, seems to have its name festooned on every concert-hall and venue in the city. And what they haven't covered with their name, sundry banks, energy companies or the remaining tobacco companies have plastered theirs.
It's a nice little town, really, Raleigh. Where about $200K will get you a house the size of a city block and three cars stopped at a traffic light counts as rush-hour traffic. My wife has friends--they're nearing 60, I suppose, who have sold their house in New Jersey and are test-retiring down here.
Recently, I saw an 18th Century house featured in the Times, an old mill abutting an old mill pond just twenty miles from Chapel Hill. It cost about 1/3 the valuation of my apartment in New York and sits on 70 acres with a pool and a guest house.
I guess when you get to my age and my increasingly diffident temperament, you think about things like this. I imagine myself taking walks through the woods with my dog, building a fire and reading the books I haven't got time or the patience for now.
Of course, I also think about being accosted in the forest by a snaggle-toothed hillbilly and strung up as a carpet-bagging Yankee Jew who polluted the local waterways with the detritus of old kasha-varishkas. They'd hang me high on the old elm tree and pelt me with hardened buckwheat groats before they immolate me, or if I'm lucky, only tar and feather.
So, I return back to New York. My home since 1957. Where everything I loved about the city in the first place has been torn down and replaced by a bank, or a nail salon, or a Starbucks.
But it's my place, this anesthetized, sterilized and sanitized island of asphalt. And work is what I do.
At least for now.